Focussed on a Great Homecoming | Bishop Writes

Focussed on a Great Homecoming | Bishop Writes

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Bishop Rennis Ponniah Photo
Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah is the 9th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He is married to Amir Ponniah and blessed with four children.

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6 July 2018

Focussed on a Great Homecoming

By Bishop Rennis Ponniah
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Filmstrip graphic designed by kstudio / Freepik; Cross photo by Kimber Shaw / Flickr; The Return of the Prodigal Son oil painting by Rembrandt
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When I still my soul and close my eyes in unhurried prayer, the Lord is often pleased to give me intimations of what is on His heart. Over the last year or so, God has placed on my heart and on the hearts of several pastors in our Diocese and in the city, that He is visiting our land with grace and mercy. A vital expression of this is that God will bring an amazing number of people to saving faith in Christ Jesus.

Correspondingly, we are preparing for an amazing harvest in all the seven countries of our Diocese. In Singapore, this will take the shape of the Celebration of Hope rallies at the National Stadium from 17-19 May 2019. At the May 2018 Synod, we are exactly one year away from this climactic harvest event.

It is time to be singularly focussed on ‘A Great Homecoming’.

For that is what salvation in Christ Jesus means. Through Jesus, sinners come home to God and are set free to live new lives as His children. What tremendous hope and joy this is for a dry and darkened and restless world! God has purposed that multitudes, from all sectors of society, will come home to Him and experience the new life that begins here and now, and continues past the gates of death into all eternity!

 

THE SEASON WE ARE IN

There is good news to be shared with everyone. Are you ready to be messengers with ‘beautiful feet and burning lips of love’ to go and tell others that God’s wonderful salvation has come in Christ Jesus? The time has come for us to do so with courage, joy and winsomeness. Here is how Scripture pictures God’s people when God visits a land with salvation in His wings:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes salvation.
Isaiah 52: 7

Is this wishful thinking or a vision to be embraced with faith? Is it possible that in the midst of increasing strife and flux on the one hand, and moral darkness, ethnocentrism and hardened secularism on the other, that God is preparing a mighty harvest? I believe it is, because with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1: 37; Jeremiah 32:17). In the midst of the engulfing darkness, God in His great love for the world and in order to show forth His glory, has prepared a day of salvation – a time of radiant, magnetic light – in many nations. This glorious light will surely shine upon those nations where God’s people are turned towards Him in repentance, faith and love. A nation will be drawn to the light of God’s glory shining through His revived people in that land (cf. Isaiah 60:1-3).

Therefore, let us be focussed in our churches and ministry points all across our Diocese on a great homecoming of many lives to God through Jesus Christ. I will share how we can do so at the May 2018 Synod and pass on the message to you.

 

THE CHURCH WE ARE TO BE

This focus on a great homecoming is much more than planning for an event. The focus on an amazing harvest that God has purposed for us is a catalyst or a means by which God is transforming our churches. And so, for example, the coming Celebration of Hope rallies cause us to get our churches in shape to be a receptacle and an instrument for God to use to bring new lives to Jesus and also to disciple them to live for Jesus.

This has caused me to ask: What kind of churches is God raising up, not only for this unique time of massive homecoming, but for long-term fruitfulness for His glory? Let me suggest the following seven characteristics for all our churches in our Diocese to aim for:

  1. Depth in Word, Worship and Discipleship
  2. Power through fervent prayer
  3. Oneness and engagement of the Body
  4. Vibrancy in evangelism and outreach
  5. Active participation in Deanery missions and world evangelisation
  6. Compassionate care for the poor and persons with special needs
  7. ‘Blessed to be a blessing’ mindset

That is my particular dream and calling: to build Spirit-filled communities of disciples (with the characteristics above) who will reach a world in need of Christ with the radiant love of God. The season of a great homecoming is an impetus for me, and I pray for every clergy and lay leader in the Diocese, to passionately and perseveringly build such a church for God.

 

We must depend on Christ alone and not look to any man or to ourselves to accomplish a great homecoming.

 

THE ONE WE DEPEND ON

It is easy to get carried away with the anticipation of a great homecoming and fall into one of two equal and opposite errors. One is to think that since God has promised it, it will happen with or without my participation. The truth rather is that God wants to work with and through you to accomplish it.

The opposite error is to think that since God has announced it, we are the ones to make it happen. The truth is that we cannot, apart from God. In one instance recorded in Holy Scripture, God tells a leader overwhelmed by the scale of the task before him: “Not by power, nor my might but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

In this vision of a re-built and revived Jerusalem, that is symbolised by a brightly-lit golden lampstand, attention is drawn to the two olive trees beside the lampstand which mysteriously supply oil for the light. In context, the two trees represent Zerubbabel, the Governor (or kingly ruler) and Joshua the High Priest - both leaders of God’s people (Zechariah 4:12-14). The two olive trees in this vision can be taken to point ahead to Jesus the Priestly King (Psalm 110:4) who supplies the nourishing life of the Holy Spirit that strengthens and makes God’s people faithful (cf. John 15:1-8).

The reality of a great homecoming cannot happen without the divine power of Jesus Christ. And the ‘oil’ He supplies is not a sudden surge from time to time but a continuous flow. We who are called to work for this amazing harvest – this great homecoming – need a supernatural empowering and a continuous supply of the Holy Spirit for the tasks at hand. Only the Lord Jesus can supply what is needed.

That is why the first and foremost step in preparing for a great homecoming is fervent and concerted prayer. It is through prayer that the people in the respective nations of our Diocese will turn God-ward. It is through prayer that Christians will become hungry for God’s glory and for souls to come to Christ. It is through prayer that the workers in the harvest field, like you and me, will be emboldened to share the Gospel at every opportunity and have the energy of love to minister to people’s needs. Hence for the Celebration of Hope, the Year of Proclamation (2019) is preceded by the Year of Prayer (2018)!

So I look forward to being with you, my God-given people, in the Celebration of Hope regional solemn assemblies of prayer as well as to joining a prayer band to intercede for the power of Jesus to bring about a great homecoming. Only the Lord can do it. And He will do it as we pray. We must therefore depend on Christ alone and not look to any man or to ourselves to accomplish a great homecoming.

A vast multitude of people from all walks of life will return to God through Christ. I believe this new wave of converts will be so captivated by Christ that they don’t become consumers of blessings but willing troops to be discipled and sent out as missionaries to the mission fields of the world. A bumper harvest!

My heartbeat is on a different tempo, sustained by Christ’s Spirit. My eyes are lifted up to God in prayer and brokenness. My lips are burning with the good news of Jesus to share. A unique season is dawning upon our Diocese. We are desperate for a great homecoming!

“Keep us focussed, O God, on Your great purpose of bringing many lives home to Yourself. May we see the brightness of a spiritual awakening in our respective lands. Lord, pour out Your Spirit. To Your praise and glory. Amen” 


(Thousands responded to the Gospel message at the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade in 1978)

*Temple Menorah Artwork by Mariano Shulman, 2001, Argentina Menorah Mosaic, Kehillat Israel, Pacific Palisades, CA, Photo: Joy Krauthammer


This message is included in the May 2018 issue of the Diocesan Digest.


28 May 2018

Let the River Flow

By Bishop Rennis Ponniah
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“Everything will live where the river flows.”  (Ezekiel 47:9)

We are as a Church preparing for revival in the midst of escalating darkness in the world. I see our Diocese as a conduit for the river of life that flows from the throne of God (Ezekiel 47). For us, it is a river that spans seven nations. The fresh water of life that we bring to each nation of our Diocese is the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is life flowing from the Cross, in the power of the Holy Spirit that brings transformation to the person, the community and the society in the varied contexts of our Diocese.

The Lord’s Promise
In these days, we are led to believe God for a mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit. It is through such an outpouring that a river of life will flow, causing people to turn to the Living God, the Creator of heaven and earth and the only Saviour (Isaiah 45:18-25), in repentance and faith. At such times, people experience not only the healing power of Jesus, but also His transforming power that brings about moral change. Converts become disciples who bring life to others. Change comes through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection personally experienced; and so the Kingdom of God advances person-by-person, family-by-family and community-by-community. This is how the landscape of a nation changes.

In times of REVIVAL, the most barren and lifeless place becomes a wellspring of life and fruitfulness. Not only that, but as soon as the seed of the Gospel is sown, the person becomes a fruitful tree for Jesus. It is such a season of rapid fruitfulness that the prophet sees that “the days are coming when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed” (Amos 9:13; cf. Haggai 2:19; John 4:34-36).

The Lord’s Encouragement
The LORD is encouraging us in many ways that it is indeed HARVEST time. Let me begin with world missions. I am writing this piece right after our Diocesan Missions Conference cum Missions Consultation Roundtable in late October 2017. At our Missions Conference, I believe that our Parishes have been stirred to renew their commitment to proclaim the Gospel in every nation (‘That None Should Perish – 2 Peter 3:9) and that a new wave of longer-term cross-cultural workers is being raised. I was deeply touched to be praying not only for earnest individuals but for couples and young families who responded to the altar call. We are not alone in reaching the harvest field in our Deanery countries. The Lord brought a record number of over 220 delegates from 16 overseas dioceses and 26 mission organisations, altogether representing over 24 countries to discover ways that they can join us in our holistic Gospel work in the Deaneries. Little wonder that our planted churches and our outreach / community service arms are growing under God’s mighty hands. Just to illustrate, three congregations in Nepal are about to become self-sustaining parish churches, the St Andrew’s School in Batam is well under way, our English language centres are well staffed and indigenous leaders and pastors are being raised all across the Deaneries. The licensing of trained Lay Stewards to administer the Lord’s Supper in the widely scattered congregations in some of our Deaneries has begun.

In Singapore, an initiative has been launched among local churches across various denominations and groupings to work towards a culminating harvest time at the National Stadium in May 2019. The approach is not to see these three days of evangelistic events as mass evangelism, but rather as personal evangelism on a mass scale. Doubtless, we will seek to do this within the parameters of religious harmony and religious persuasion in this secularly governed and multi-religious nation. How wonderful it will be that all Christians in this land unite with one heart and one voice to lift up the ONE NAME in which all mankind have a living HOPE! I am excited to anticipate that 40 years after the Billy Graham rallies in 1978, we will see again a mighty harvest of souls together with a harvest of HOLINESS and a harvest of new Kingdom workers. Unity of the body of believers and a winsome holiness among God’s people is as much on God’s heart as the new lives He is seeking to bring home to Himself.

The public proclamation of the Gospel must take place against the backdrop of the total witness of the Church in love and good works. Anglican witness in Singapore is well over a hundred years old. We have developed a whole range of sought after educational and community services. Our schools and preschool centre are highly valued as excellent communities of learning and character formation. Our medical services (SAMH) have gone beyond our flagship Community Hospital (SACH) to include specialized nursing homes. Our care for those with autism will soon go beyond day care and schooling to include residential care. This year, we celebrate the Golden Anniversary of Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS). Amazingly, God has given us a niche area in providing a whole continuum of care for those with mental health issues. These services demonstrate our commitment to serve in ways that promote ‘the welfare of the city’ (Jeremiah 29:7). We are poised to make our well-developed services more available to our Deanery countries.

Personal evangelism and public witness must be accompanied by intentional disciple making. Our Archbishop, the Most Revd Ng Moon Hing, at our recent Missions Roundtable, emphasized this point. The Lord has worked this emphasis into the life of most of our churches. Not only that, He is moving in such a way that there is active evangelism and discipleship in the marketplace as our lay leaders set the example and train others to see one’s total life in the context of being Christ’s disciple and advancing God’s kingdom. Praise God!

Our Anglican Communion is in a state of flux and disrepair. Yet God in His mercy has caused Global South Anglicans (GSA) and GAFCON to jointly form a Study team on Ecclesial Structure and Responsibility so that we may be a coherent, biblically based mission-engaged, global body that is part of ‘the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’. I found new energy for this task when the Lord showed me in my Quiet Time that a well-founded and well-governed Church, infused by the Holy Spirit, is what is needed for God’s people to be ‘a light to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:6). God has given us so much through our Anglican roots, not least through the Reformation five hundred years ago. He is not finished with the Anglican Communion yet.

The life-giving, landscape-transforming river in Ezekieh 47 has its source from the throne or dwelling place of God. 

The Lord’s Call
The life-giving, landscape-transforming river in Ezekieh 47 has its source from the throne or dwelling place of God. We are only the riverbed. The life-giving power must come from the Lord God Almighty. He must pour out His Spirit form on high if there is to be REVIVAL and a mighty HARVEST. He has revealed that this is on His heart and this is the hour. Some of us, through the witness of the Spirit, would say that this is not only God’s desire, this is what God is promising. What I do know is that God’s desire and indeed even God’s promise is fulfilled through the prayers of His people
(2 Chronicles 7:14).

My people, let us cry out to God in brokenness. We have no power of our own to overcome the dark, chaotic and destructive forces loosed on the earth at this time. In some parts of our Diocese, there is intense hostility against Christians. There is much in the life of churchgoers that is dishonouring to the Lord. In Singapore, there is a drastic slump in the growth of the number of Christians. The percentage of Christians (Protestants and Catholics) among Residents aged 15 years and above grew only from 18.3% in 2010 to 18.8% in 2015 – an increase of 0.5%. Compare this with a 1.5% increase, from 17% to 18.5% over the same period for those preferring “No religion”. We need to pray in brokenness for Revival.

And God will hear our prayers. He will revive the Church. He will enable His children to live with poise and praise in the midst of chaotic and difficult times. He will enable us to serve our fellow countrymen in HOPE. He will bring in a mighty Harvest. He will cause the River of Life to flow! To Him be all the praise and glory!


This message is included in the November 2017 issue of the Diocesan Digest.

26 September 2017

Welcome Message

By Bishop Rennis Ponniah
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Welcome to the official website of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore.

The Diocese of Singapore consists of 27 parishes in Singapore and 6 deaneries throughout the Asia region. We have an established history of establishing worship communities as well as providing educational, medical and social services in Singapore and the neighbouring region. We are also a member of the Province of Southeast Asia, headed by our current Archbishop, the most Revd Datiuk Ng Moon Hing. 

I trust that this website and our Church can serve and be a blessing to you. If you have any feedback on this website, please email Karen Wong (karenwong@anglican.org.sg).

Yours in Christ

Rennis Ponniah
Bishop of Singapore

About the Bishop

Bishop Rennis Ponniah Photo
Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah is the 9th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He is married to Amir Ponniah and blessed with four children.

Recent Bishop Writes

6 July Focussed on a Great Homecoming
28 May Let the River Flow
26 September Welcome Message

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